"Documentary films are written four times. The first time you write it is when you conceive your questions because those questions have to lead to a narrative. You have to know that the answers of your subject are going to start piecing together the film. The second part is when you get the transcripts back [from the interviews]. I highlight them and start to puzzle all the different bites together. Where there is a break and it needs to be redirected, you write the voice-over. That is the third part of the process. The fourth time you write is when you are in the edit bay and you look at the footage. You do it all over again. It is really about taking your subjects' voices and giving them narrative.”

– Stacy Peralta
(Made in America; Riding Giants)

The WGAW is committed to increasing documentary film and low budget screenwriters' status and influence within the film industry. We seek to expand writers' coverage through the use of the WGA's Documentary Screenplay Contract and Low Budget Agreement for films budgeted at $1.2 million and below. These agreements were revised in 2013 to include certain work-for-hire situations, reduced upfront payments, and a flexible deferment definition.

Read a financial summary of the Documentary Screenplay Contract and the Low Budget Agreement.


The Documentary Screenplay Contract is a contract designed to meet the demands of the documentary film business as well as ensure the rights and benefits for writers of theatrically released documentaries budgeted at $1.2 million or below.

Read about how the Documentary Screenplay Contract works and obtain the filing documents.


First presented in 2005, the WGA Documentary Screenplay Award was established to spotlight the writer’s primary role in documentary filmmaking’s creative process, recognize the fact that the majority of non-fiction feature films are written, and highlight the benefits of working under a Writers Guild contract.

The Documentary Screenplay Award is presented—along with film, TV, new media, radio, news, videogame, promo, and graphic animation awards categories—at the Writers Guild Awards at simultaneous ceremonies in Los Angeles and New York City.

See a list of previous winners & nominees and submission details. A Writers Guild contract is required for eligibility.


Whether you are nonfiction writer working on basic cable, PBS, or for a feature film documentary, you can have your work protected by a WGA contract. The Guild has negotiated dozens of agreements for low budget nonfiction programming.

For more information, contact Member Organizing.


International Documentary Association

Film Independent

Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program

For more helpful links, read our list of Industry Organizations.